Christian, the Reason So Many People are Losing Faith—May Be You

Feet-walking-street-city-effects
Thou shalt not steal.
– God

Millions of people have lost their religion but they haven’t all given it up willingly. I think we Christians have stolen it from many of them.

They’ve looked at our body of work and found it far less than convincing. For all our loud, flowery talk of a God who is Love, we’ve repeatedly proven ourselves incapable of a worthy demonstration in close proximity—and so away they walk.

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus dreamed out loud that the very lives of those who followed him would become brilliant beacons pointing to God; that our collective character would be the loudest testimony of God’s goodness in the world. We would incarnate Christ’s love to a hurting humanity in real-time, up close; and they in turn would seek the source of what they’d experienced—and find God there waiting.

Consider this a wake-up call, because that dream ain’t happenin’ with nearly enough regularity.

Every single day frustrated, exhausted people tell me as much. They reach out to me at their place of breaking; the pivot point where their road turns decidedly away from the pursuit of God. And so many times they share with me that they are leaving faith behind for good; not because of the systematic sins of the institutional Church, or the theocratic politics of Presidential candidates, or the greed and abuse they see in organized religion. No it’s much more localized than that.

Far too often, people are abandoning Christianity because they are looking closely at believers like you and me and finding very little light worth moving toward. They are rubbing up against our specific, individual lives, and instead of coming away with the sense that God is real and worth seeking, they are determining that God must be dead or at best irrelevant—and we probably shouldn’t be the least bit surprised.

Whether across their kitchen counters or board meeting tables or smartphone screens we are giving people plenty of reason to conclude that religion is a grand failed experiment; a nice, lofty theoretical exercise that falls apart in the practice of actually living. So it isn’t the Church or Jesus that they’re objecting to, it’s you and it’s me.

We haven’t arrived here overnight and there are lots of reasons for it, but in America especially, I think we’ve gradually evolved into a nearly Jesus-free Christianity; one that allows us to claim Christ while not being saddled with the annoying burden of living like him in any meaningful way. We get God’s cachet and we get our way which is how we like it: cheap religion without the costly personal transformation.

If we’re honest, in the course of a given day out there most of us are usually far more interested and invested in winning arguments, proving points, garnering Retweets, and throwing shade than we are reflecting the compassion and humility and dignity of Christ to people in our path. We have so strayed from the plot and so made God in our own nasty image, that we’ve convinced ourselves the best answer to the question, “What Would Jesus Do?”—is be a jackass.

Take a look at just about any faith-based blog comment section or social media exchange or partisan talk show. Regardless of our place on the theological continuum, we’re all quick with our snark, ready with our rhetoric, and armed to the teeth with enough memes and put-downs and mic drops to slay an army. We spit venom and belittle dissenters and we walk away from conversations and computer screens feeling self-righteous satisfaction in our victory over our enemy, when in reality Jesus is the one left most bloodied from the battle. At the end of our efforts, we have often succeeded most, in nudging onlookers further from belief in a good God who loves them madly. So many on their spiritual journey see us and think to themselves, “If this is Christianity, then I don’t want it.”

I’ve always contended that the best evangelism is simply to tell people that you’re a Christian and then not be a complete jerk. I believe in faith-sharing through the sermon of a life resembling Jesus, and yet I confess I daily fail this endeavor rather miserably.

Christian, at the end of every day it’s helpful to rewind through the preceding hours and carefully sift through our interactions, whether in person and on social media and ask what those words and those conversations are most marked by:

Is the life I am living worth aspiring to; my countenance, my manner, my default condition?
In any measurable way, does my faith in Christ make me different than those without it?
Does the sum total of my seconds radiate the kindness and humility and forgiveness of Jesus or something far colder, harder, and angrier than that?
Is my life perpetuating Jesus’ life or not?

Truthfully the possibility for hypocrisy in this faith journey abounds. Though we speak of a perfect God, we ourselves are flawed, messy, wrecks destined to fall short—but that’s not a good enough excuse not to strive. Let our failure not come easily or without great effort at the beautiful alternative of stumbling after Christlikeness. If we are indeed to fall, let it be as we seek to fly.

Yes, millions of people leave the faith because the Church has hurt them, but so many times that wounding is not done from a distance by some massive, faceless entity, but by a familiar assailant close enough to cut them. That mortal damage is inflicted in the cruel words and vengeful posts and mean-spirited rants of those they know or encounter in community.

Christian, as you think about the root causes for so many people saying no to religion, don’t just look at the culture or people’s sin or a broken system or a failing institution—look in the mirror.

May the testimony of our lives, give those seeking souls in our midst one less reason to lose their religion.

94 thoughts on “Christian, the Reason So Many People are Losing Faith—May Be You

  1. “Is my life perpetuating Jesus’ life or not?”
    Whoa, you really woke up brave this morning, John. Let me be the first to say, “Well done, well said, and point taken!”
    I think you may get even more flack from this post than the last one. ;o) Good.

    • To keep the faith, we look at Jesus. Keep our eyes on Jesus. HE is the model that inspires us, gives us hope! gives us faith! gives us love! I’m disappointed in myself, and disappointed by others. But, I would never put faith in myself, or others. Jesus never fails.

      • God forbid, someone would look at me and expect perfection like Christ was perfect. I can’t be perfect in this world. That’s why I need Jesus…to cover my paltry self-centeredness, every second, every day.

      • If we cannot grow towards a principled life in which we say we are sorry to those we offend and admit when we are wrong rather than falling back on the cross to hide or cover our sins this is where we make excuses rather than utilizing the power of redemption. Forgive us as we forgive others only works if we are admitting openly our wrong and working to correct the wrong we do through the hope of the cross and the grace of Jesus. Maybe you think the way I do about it, what do you think ? I welcome a discussion on this.

      • I take an honest spiritual inventory every day..every month, every year….admitting my wrongs upon conviction by the Holy Spirit immediately, and offering amends to God, myself and the person I harmed [ except when to do so would injure them more. ]. I have accountability partners that challenge me to keep my spiritual inventory up to date, and I am an accountability partner to them too. I have found that hiding a hurt, does not help it go away, and I have learned that healing coincides with –God’s forgiveness –forgiving others — forgiving myself –making amends –showing gratitude –giving back.

  2. This is true. I see many people that are supposed to be Christians, on Facebook, posting their nasty memes on everything they don’t agree with, and I think, “Is this what being a Christian means?” I haven’t been to church for a year and I quit FB. It’s so depressing!

  3. The only true exhibit of God Love is demonstration. Words are mostly empty, especially when the walk doesn’t match the talk. If a “Christian” isn’t congruent in their talk/walk they really aren’t followers of the Christ.

  4. I left the church, and not willingly. I live with bipolar disorder, anxiety, PTSD and am in recovering from an eating disorder. My then-boyfriend (now fiancé) and I compared notes and felt co-habitation was a good idea given how turbulent my day-to-day life can be. We didn’t want to make vows before God without knowing we could make it work at home. Theogolically, it was “wrong,” I knew that, but I also committed to continue pursuing Jesus despite this choice we had made when so many others in similar situations just drift away from the church because of the moral confusion.

    A few months after we moved in together, and about a month and a half before my fiancé proposed, my pastor, who was at one point one of my best friends, gave me an ultimatum: move out or leave the church.

    I was told I could not be considered a true Christian if I was willing to live with my then-boyfriend before marriage. I agreed to do mediation sessions with my pastors and two women in the church he hand-picked to be mentors. I did one, and it felt like an intervention. It did not feel like I was being met where I was, but rather forcefully dragged into a place of Christianity that aligned with THEIR vision. I felt like I was being cast as a worse brand of broken than them. In that mediation meeting, I had my first externalized panic attack in years. That experience caused a relapse in PTSD. I stopped sleeping. I got dangerously close to an eating disorder relapse.

    One day, a few weeks before my second mediation session, I decided I was done. I would not continue the sessions and I would allow myself to be removed from the church, before the tension put me in danger. I had one last meeting with my pastor and the associate pastor, and felt so much relief.

    I miss the community. I’m realistic that many of the friendships will not survive without the pretext of the church family holding them together. But, I’m healthier now. I’m much happier. I’ve tried a few other churches, but I just don’t feel like I can make that commitment again. Now, I’m not even sure what I identify as anymore from a faith perspective, but…I’m definitely not the same kind of Christian I was when all of this started, if I even am still Christian.

    • I’m so sorry you had to go through this “hell” just because of some people’s narrow-minded views of what makes for “sin” in someone’s life. This belief in “one size fits all” morality or that there might be the “appearance of evil” (God, have I heard THAT one SO many times) drives people to simply forget how to love people where they are at, even when they don’t fit into some preconcieved idea of what “righteous” is.

      The fact that even YOU felt it was “theologically wrong” says volumes about how organized religion indoctrinates us. You weren’t living together for “carnal” reasons, but for practical reasons that anyone should have been able to discern if they’d cared to inquire. But judgmentalism seems to ALWAYS trump compassion and understanding.

      Kelly, you didn’t do ANYTHING wrong. Even if you and your partner had sex, it still was not “sin” because you were committed to forging a lasting, loving relationship, not just in it for the pleasure or convenience. Nobody can see your motives except your heavenly Father who loves you and wants you to live the best life possible. If that means living with your boyfriend before you take the full plunge into marriage, then He is FOR you, regardless of what anybody’s moral code book says.

      I hope you can heal from this trauma and move on and find a place that will accept you just as God does.

    • Have you read Illusions, by Richard Bach? I struggled with a similar issue for a long long time, but then one day I read that book and so much made more sense. It’s a quick-read fiction book, but the message was much deeper. At least for me.

      • several comments:
        1) Richard Bach is the author of both Jonathon Livingston Seagull and Illusions. There is a sequel to Illusions called The Bridge Across Forever. All three are delightful and insightful, if a bit fantastical… Illusions was one of the first books I actually enjoyed reading as an adolescent (all the required, depressing “literature” turned me off of reading by 10th grade).
        2) Anyway, Kelly, sheesh! What a load of crap you got dealt! I am reminded of a Thanksgiving dinner some 20+ years ago when my grandmother (a devout Catholic) looked at me and told me she “would rather bury me than ever hear of me ‘living in sin’,” which is exactly what I was doing at the time, and with a professor of mine to boot! Fast forward these many years, and I am grateful to report that while she never recanted those hurtful words, she did grow sweeter and truer as she grew older. She passed away last fall at the age of 92, and my memories are now mostly precious reminders.
        3) somewhere close below someone says we are made in the image of God and are therefore born perfect. Well, not exactly. We are born with a sin-filled nature, but also with a Christ- yearning heart- we are image-bearers of God, shadows, if you will, of the true Holy of Holies. The goal, then, in my humble opinion, is to in fact allow the costly and painful transformation required of true discipleship in Christ Jesus. There are very real “crosses” we as believers are called to pick up and carry, regardless of their weight and regardless of our stumbles. Christ crucified saves us, frees us from death/Death. He does not exempt us from suffering. In fact, He invites us INTO His suffering. This is (I think) EXACTLY what our beloved and flawed blogger Jon is doing right now. he is suffering. and suffering mightily for his faith, because his faith is the REAL DEAL, and so many (most?) “Christians” out there today are talking, SHOUTING, CRAMMING their “faith” and “BibLical” opinions down others’ throats, but refusing to LOVE. LOVE LOVE. no matter the cost to them. I pray you find a group of people willing to LOVE above all else. Those folks, regardless of their label, will be the closest to Jesus you will find.

      • Roger, I disagree that we are all sinners. It is true we all miss the mark we are aiming for but in no way does that make us bad. How is it that few know the word “sin” simply means missing the mark or that “sin” is an archery term?
        We say we are made in the image and likeness of God, therefore we are perfect, we’re born perfect and our only imperfection is believing the horrible message from religious organizations that want control, they can only maintain control if they have punishment waiting for the “sinner”. When the world becomes enlightened to the fact that we are all one, all made from the same stardust, have their life and being in the very nature of Spirit, all a child of God and none can change that fact, then we will begin to have the peace we so desire.
        God does not make junk nor does God make disposable people.

      • I agree—and put the emphasis on the word “mental.” If you want to know how to find a new church that will treat you like a human being deserving of love and forbearance, I refer you to the following post on my blog:

        https://faith17983.wordpress.com/2015/05/10/escape-from-the-abuse-at-your-church/

        When you are finished there, you can read the other posts on my blog by simply clicking the blog name at the top of the page.

        Your situation sounds something like the situation of Hester Prynne in Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter.” They boot you from church membership, but they enjoy your showing up anyway on Sunday so they can point at you with their gnarled old fingers and say, “See there. She’s the one with the Scarlet “F” on her shirt. She’s a vile fornicator. Take a close look at her. You could be like her one day if you screw up—so do not screw up—and tow the line set by the Old Testament law.” Like most fundies, the words “love” and “mercy” are not in their playbook. As the old saying goes, “Cotton Mather was a Cotton Mother”—and that just about says it all. These are the same kind of two-bit religious pricks that banished sinner Roger Williams from the Massachusetts Bay Colony—forcing him to found the Baptist Church in the New World. You are in good company Kelly.

    • Kelly – I’m sorry that this happened to you. I’m glad that you’re in a better, healthier place personally. After growing up in the church, and being fully dedicated to Christian ministry for about 20 years, I finally left it entirely. I didn’t have one big precipitating factor, but stories like yours were largely why I left. Pastors and members should not be manipulating lives in that way. I now identify as post-theist, but have found connection with people all along the spectrum of agnostic/humanist/atheist people. There are a lot of good resources/communities for exploring these questions/issues. If you ever want to connect, just let me know. Keep doing what’s best for you and your fiance!

    • You believe in the teachings of Christ and endeavor to live by those beautiful principles as best you can? Then you are a TRUE Christians and a wonderful human being. Your relationship with your God is your own personal walk and NO ONE can intrude themselves into that. I salute your courage and strength.

    • Kelly said: “I agreed to do mediation sessions with my pastors and two women in the church he hand-picked to be mentors.”

      Would you be willing for me to do a little mediation between your former pastor and the two women on your behalf?

    • I know your spiritual journey is not done. My prayer for you is that you find a community of believers that will meet you where you are. God has a plan for you and you are crazily loved by your Creator and somewhere there is a group that will embrace you for that wonderful creation you are. Keep seeking. He’ll lead you home.

    • You sound wise beyond your years, Kelly. God’s peace to you as you continue to heal from this abuse at the hands of sisters and brothers in Christ who probably meant well. And blessings on your relationship with your fiancé.

      • Thank you. Regardless of what the church says, I believe Josh (my doubt-holding fiance who now resents organized religion after watching this scenario) was brought into my life by God. We have both discovered so much about becoming the best versions of ourselves, because of how God presents Himself in our relationship and dynamics. I can’t by any stretch of the imagination understand how anything that allows us to better live as practical Christians (me more so than him, since this has pushed him into full-on agnosticism) in the world is sinful…other than, you know, via legalism…

    • In my humble opinion you are very much a Christian. I feel quite sad, and often angry, that the one place in the world we are supposed to be able to come as broken, hurting people, set rules for entry. I, too, am bi-polar and I think you made a very wise choice. People don’t know what it’s like until they are there. Be strong in your journey and love yourself – as we are commanded to do.

    • Have you ever really studied the Bible about the idea of living together before marriage? In my view it is a cultural church expectation and not a command from God. You said that you knew it was wrong. Was it really, for you? Give you and your fiance as much grace as you would offer to someone else in your situation. Study the Bible and seek God for your ownoral questions and don’t try to rely on interpretation based on American cultural “christianity”

      • I mean, I know you’re right. I know that the church’s cultural expectation to NOT live together is rooted in vague passages regarding the sanctity of marriage. It’s a very weird domino-effect. “If they live together, they may be doing ___, and we can interpret ____ as going against what Paul said in THIS passage, therefore they’re completely ignoring Jesus’s design of a beautiful Christian life!”

  5. Many people that I know have left Christianity because the church teaches them to expect that God will always be there for them. So, when they pray to God and their prayers are not answered it’s not surprising that they either think that they are not worthy of God’s love or that he is irrelevant. That’s the problem with having a concept of a personal God.

    • It sounds like the “many people that you know” wanted God to be their own personal genie in a bottle……either do what I ask or I want nothing to do with you. How many of these “many people” bother to read God’s word and see what He says about the things we should be praying for?

        • yeah it is not communicated as a genie in the bottle but many Christians and pastors/minister/priests may give the impression someone does not have enough faith (which is why prayers go unanswered) or sin is in the way (despite the fact that the person works overtime to not sin but they are told it must be a sin of omission then one they can’t see) or God is testing them (but Jesus healed everyone he met) or God won’t answer all your prayers ( which makes you feel shitty or unworthy or doubtful of God’s ability) i could go on but yeah we are taught what to think about unanswered prayer and it does not always add up

      • I would not say that it is a direct connection for everyone who leaves a church congregation but maybe the wrong focus is to look for answered prayer which can only lead to disillusionment in some form. Some people get easily discouraged and the hyper focus on answered prayer only makes people more anxious. People want to see the Spirit at work and they think that by praying the Spirit will act. Yet they forget we need to act. What we do is important. As Fannie Lou Hamer said “You Can Pray Until You Faint, But Unless You Get Up And Try To Do Something, God Is Not Going To Put It In Your Lap.”

    • I have been taught that God is always there and found/experienced Him not to be there for certain areas of my life. I gave up on Christianity altogether. I don’t have the strength, energy or desire to “fight the good fight” any more. I’m done fighting! I don’t read the bible anymore because it does nothing for me. It doesn’t inspire me to be “good” it doesn’t “speak to me” and I know some of it isn’t even really what God said. Its mans opinion of what God said. I don’t know what to believe anymore.. I do love God. He has helped me through some extreme struggles with depression, PTSD and identity crisis’
      I don’t want to be wrong and go to hell, but I just can’t bring myself to believe what I feel are lies I’ve been told.
      I don’t put much stock in dreams over all but when they re-occur I have to wonder what I am to learn. I have a reoccurring dream that I am at the church I attended for years where I was told many lies about who God is. in my dream, I want so desperately to leave but when I go to my car I can never find it in the parking lot. its nowhere to be found. I take a moped and can’t get it going fast enough to leave the property. I feel trapped. I feel trapped in the belief system I was taught and I don’t know how to get out. that is what I feel the dream is telling me, that I’m trapped, and I’m angry with God for feeling trapped, and I know its not Gods fault and He doesn’t want me to feel trapped. but here I am still trapped.
      I have a lot more to say but I think this is it for now.

      • You were failed by men—not God. Just remember that any two-bit “schmuck” can gain entrance to a fifth rate Bible college and come out as a pastor. Hell!!! My plumber is a lot smarter and more faithful than a lot of those guys. Just like Kelly above, I can see that you too need my blog too:

        https://faith17983.wordpress.com/page/6/

        God bless you and have a great day!!!

      • thank you Dover1952, I am very interested in what I saw on your blog. scared but some how relieved and interested. scared because I remember some of the rebuttals of the church.. i.e. “oh you just want a feel good church. We don’t walk by feelings we walk by faith.” “You just want to go somewhere that will let you walk in sin if you choose too.” and that “rapture” thing!!!!! Even writing and posting this I feel I am grieving the Holy Spirit and will be punished severely by God. very sad.

      • Dear belleangel164, I hope one day very soon you arrive at this conclusion: that anything based in fear is simply not love. I don’t mean the fear of loosing what you love, as in taking precautions to protect your child or loved one, but fear as a tool or justification for defining love. This kind of fear is a foundational element of so many religions, but we are specifically talking about Christianity here: “God loves you so much he sent his only begotten son to die for you because you are so broken. And if you don’t understand this, you will suffer for eternity.” Pretty darn terrifying and confusing, especially for anyone who seeks only to love and be loved.

        The most profound growth we can experience is when we shed the things in our lives that no longer serve us. Horror stories about wrath and judgement are not necessary to hold up an authentic Truth. Truth speaks for itself. It is understood by all regardless of language, intellect, or experience. If a person arrives at a conclusion about God because he is afraid of the alternatives he has been warned about by other fearful people, his faith is not pure; there’s always a picture in the back of his mind of hell as consequence. But if we take the fear out of the equation, what we are left with is the truth about God and the very thing we are all seeking, despite all our so called “shortcomings” and regardless of what the obvious disagreements about him seem to say.

        So don’t listen to the fear in you. Those stories are not love and you can choose to reject them. Don’t buy into the stories of not being worthy of God’s love, or the stories that you will suffer for any questions or doubts you might have.

        Above all know this: You are a bright, magnificent creation of God no matter where your journey takes you. You’ve always been, and always will be a most beautiful expression of his divine love.

      • thank you Carmenmelton, that makes thing so much better that you reminded me that fear is NOT of God. Who would want to serve a God of fear. and “perfect love cast out all fear” God’s love is perfect.
        thank you

    • I don’t know that the issue is so much with the personal God as it is with what is being taught.

      “the church teaches them to expect that God will always be there for them. So, when they pray to God and their prayers are not answered it’s not surprising that they either think that they are not worthy of God’s love or that he is irrelevant.”

      The church teaching that God will always be there for you, yes that is correct based on many verses, one is:
      Deuteronomy 31:6.
      “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

      Below is a popular passage but most people are not taught all the details, especially about verse 13. “So that the Father may be glorified.”
      John 14:13-14
      “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.”
      We can pray all day long but if our prayers only glorify ourselves they will never be answered. Prayers for health, wealth and prosperity which are preached by many will get us no where. Praying once for something then expecting it as if God is a genie with endless wishes does not work either.
      Prayer is the conversation, the relationship, the time we spend working out the issues in our lives. Prayer is where we ask for guidance, forgiveness, the fruits of the spirit… Prayer is the cleansing of the mind, heart and soul. Prayer is the building of the best bond you will ever have: a relationship with the maker of the universe- your God, your Creator, your Savior!

  6. As usual, John, you challenge us deeply. Well done! I feel convicted. Just this morning I got angry with a “hungry” (my name for those seeking help who come to the gate for a peanut butter sandwich and a cup of tea). He was insistently and persistently asking for further help which I could not nor would I give him – shoes, money, clothes. I guess he sees I live in a fancy house and thinks I have loads of everything to spare and instead I’m also struggling to make ends meet and don’t have spare shoes to give him. I got mad with him and told him not to ever come again. I was so mad at that point I didn’t want to feed another “hungry” again, but I have relented there. I can’t not do so for all those others who are grateful and undemanding and that sandwich and tea might be all that is keeping them from starving for all I know. Just one incident among many where I failed to show love. Help me, Lord, to be a better expression of Your love, kindness, compassion, mercy every day in every thing I do.

    • It’s hard Jem, I don’t know specifically the scenario you are referring to but it fits. There are people on every street corner where I live and I run out of cash after the first two people, I used to try to find out what they wanted and buy a sandwich or a coffee or a bus ticket for them but I don’t have a lot of time or resources to do that all the time. And then a friend tells me later don’t give to the pan handlers because they are being looked after by the shelters or the government agencies but I think that is bull. They don’t look as if they are being cared for at all. It’s all a tiny drop in the bucket. Maybe all we can do is try our best with what we can and point them to places were they can receive help so they are not hungry or cold. Sometimes what they need is an encouraging word, a smile or to talk. It is overwhelming sometimes. But I can’t help but think if everyone did their part we wouldn’t have the problem of the poor on the street. Which is why I think Jesus said to the rich to give away everything you have. It makes sense because it would level the playing field and reduce power and privilege. Just a pipe dream, eh?

      • Yeah! Thanks for the encouragement! Where I live not a lot gets done for the poor and homeless and I feel the least I can do is offer a sandwich and a cuppa tea to refresh the body. It’s a bit like rescuing the starfish. (Do you know that story?). I always think if I was in their position I would appreciate that, and some of them (most, I think) do. It’s the cup of cold water in His name! Lol! I won’t give to folk in the street and I never give money. We have beggars at street intersections approaching cars at the traffic lights and I won’t ever encourage that.

    • It is really hard. I know. I have been taken advantage of more times then I can count. And I have to admit I have thought about hardening the shell and just stop helping people. I can’t do it. Every time I volunteer at this one organization all I can help feeling is “Well, we give you this now, what then? What are you going to do with this chance?” That is why I always try to go the extra step in counseling and give them options to look at and think “What if this one time perhaps they received help with no conditions will plant a seed that will bloom later. Or what if the one time I give someone that help it is the one time they needed.” I will keep helping and I hope to God I have the strength to continue to do so. Because sometimes it is hard for me to just get through the day. May God keep my heart soft and pliable enough to stretch, but not break.

  7. Your sentence in the blog “not a good enough excuse not to strive” says it all. That is what the problem is. We keep striving to change, to become more Christ like and we can’t. We have a sinful nature. And tet only way we can change is by allowing the Holy Spirit to change us. Spending time reading His Word, praying (not the genie in a bottle praying, but the kind that asks God to make us more Christ-like, no matter the cost) and a change will come in a person or collectively in the church. But not until we will humble ourselves and seek His face.

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  9. Reblogged this on darren's thinking and commented:
    “If we’re honest, in the course of a given day out there most of us are usually far more interested and invested in winning arguments, proving points, garnering Retweets, and throwing shade than we are reflecting the compassion and humility and dignity of Christ to people in our path. … We have so strayed from the plot and so made God in our own nasty image, that we’ve convinced ourselves the best answer to the question, ‘What Would Jesus Do?’—is be a jackass.”

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  11. I’m really enjoying your writings sir. Personally I’m absolutely at that crossroads lately. The more I look at it, I find my stay…or stint with Christianity to be one big waste of time. Because of all the grand promises they make on the surface…nearly none of them follow through. As much as I tried to fit into that culture…I just keep on feeling I don’t belong because of how alienated I am from church.

    People like you who at least dare to admit that christians are part of the problem keep things interesting enough for me to stick around the theism dialogue. Thank you sir for the honest reflections and thoughts.

  12. “Let our failure not come easily or without great effort at the beautiful alternative of stumbling after Christlikeness. If we are indeed to fall, let it be as we seek to fly.”

    I love these words, John. This is an extremely thought-provoking piece, one that all Christians can benefit from.

    I’ve always remembered the words of a former pastor who told the community one Sunday that “we are all messy people.” I think of it often, not only about myself but about everyone I come in contact with. In my walk with Christ, I strive to be less judgmental, to accept people as they are, to simply love other humans as I want to be loved. I pray that I never chase anyone away from Christianity by my words or deeds. I don’t want to be THAT jerk.

  13. You cannot give to others what you do not possess yourself…I was in church yesterday, feeling just as alienated and rejected as ever…and bored. I’d like to be able to ask questions and talk about God and Jesus BEYOND sin and salvation teaching …it was Transfiguration Sunday, and I was pondering whether Jesus had chromosomes and mitochondria, having been implanted in Mary’s uterus …and then I realized why Jesus is the Second Adam; Adam, also, was not created through sexual intercourse, but by direct action of God. I would like to talk about things never discussed, like how does God experience time, what is is like not being bound by the laws of physics and how the vast distances in outer space are no issue for Him. About how He inhabits all dimensions, how He has always existed. It seems that 99 44/100% of Christianity is about getting conversions as if meeting some sort of corporate metric, and then the constant harping on morality – I’m hoping that Heaven will be like Narnia, Middle Earth and The Federation and waaaay better than all of them – I’m looking forward to an actual life there, with a real God, and not the trammeled, “arm’s length” religion that is presented as Christianity.

  14. I gave up on the institution of Christianity when I was a teenager. I never gave up on God and therefore God has never given up on me. Fellowship only works when you are among those who are like-minded. It’s politics, plain and simple. I was dragged to every Baptist church down south as I care to remember. Every time I was there, I never saw God. I saw vindictive, petty, unscrupulous, bending the word of God to instill fear, shame, and anger against those who didn’t behave. I was even sent to a church camp in the Summer and experienced for the first/last time what brainwashing felt like. The repetitive, awake but not awake motions and actions. Lucky for me, I was aware that I was committing to action but I was doing it on auto pilot. When I returned to the church I saw the similarities.

    The final nail in the coffin for me was when I was tried to join the “Fellowship Church.” A extraordinarily large convocation that resembled a live talent show than a sermon. I attended the required classes and at the end I asked, “Is it possible for a man to find God on his own?” He said, “no.” I knew it was a lie because *I* had found God on my own. Then, I got a call from one of their managers in regards to my application. It asked if there was any skill or what not I could lend to the church. I was an accomplished, trained, and very talented commercial artist. I put that down as something I would have been willing to donate to the church. This charlatan dismissed my offer and said, “This isn’t what WE call a ‘giving ministry.'” He further explained, “these sorts of jobs are reserved only for high ranking members.” Then sealed it off with, “So what we want you to do is put on an orange vest and direct traffic on Sunday.” Well…you can take that orange vest and do things with it that the bible would frown upon!

    That’s when I realized I didn’t need church to be with God or Jesus. All church is a cash-cow that ventures on cultism. They take your money , claim it’s for God (you know because…GOD really needs money /sarc) Then they manipulate your life and churn out the Westboro Church, Kim Davis, Gregg Abbott, Ken Paxton, Bill Metzger, and a whole host of religious warriors out to enforce their dogma on a world that doesn’t want their message.

    “And he will come with the blood of the saints and the word of God on his lips.”

    ^^^It’s the Neo-Conservatives and their Republican Jesus that are paving the way…

  15. There comes a time where we all have to take responsibility for our walk. I see my fellow Christians as just being people, with flaws, doubts, childhood issues and who are still lost as I am. Even the greatest example of Christ that I have witnessed in my life could say something to me that could rock my world in a bad way, and possibly affect my walk. But I get the point of this writing. It only takes one bad impression to mess up someone’s walk. We are all responsible. I also feel that once the knowledge of God has entered into our soul, that we can no longer blame a church or a person for causing us to leave God. Once our personal journey begins, we are on our own with God. Through highs and lows, we go. So I am one of the affected ones that have not quite left yet. I am giving it more time in hopes of a more personal walk with God. I am reviewing my expectations of other Christians. I am asking myself where I should bend. I am in the process of making an effort to be renewed. A broken soul in a repair shop, trusting God to be my mechanic. I feel like a lemon, but know that I too can be repaired of the known and the unknown because I have the desire to be healed. I now feel as I am writing, that my walking away from church hurts myself and also anyone that I may have had the opportunity to help. Most of my pain and hatred of the church was caused by the split that occurred over the Gay issue. Many of those who left were my mentors or the parents of my friends. A retired pastor and a group of elders made phone calls, pressuring the others to leave. But those who stayed welcomed me and are showing me that the spirit is alive and gives comfort. Am I willing to accept this love from them or will I wallow in my pain and in my feelings of rejection until the offers of friendship dissolve and quit occurring. Will I blame the church or will I make the change in myself? Will I seek the comfort of the spirit through other people that welcome me? All I can say is. “Christian, the reason I am losing faith, maybe me too.” Thank you, John, for another well thought out post!

  16. Great post as usual John. One of the first steps towards atheism for me was my utter disdain for what I saw so called “Christians” doing/saying. The hatred, cruelty and other bad behavior made me no longer wanted to be associated with the “brand”. I still have a great many Christian friends who are truly AMAZING people, but the noisy Christians who condemn others are the ones getting the attention these days. They are giving the faith a bad name. As I distanced from the label of Christianity I began to go much more in depth in my understanding of the faith for me personally. I bought a brand new bible and read it cover to cover, highlighting passages, referring to outside sources for more info (re: archaeological proof – or lack of, etc.) and then began questioning how possible much of the bible was. I also noted all the failed prophecies and impossible “scientific” facts the bible claims. After learning more about how the bible was actually put together, the lack of evidence for much of the events (Exodus, flood) and the lack of scientific proof that prayer changes outcomes. All of this lead me to atheism. I still feel there may be “something” bigger than us – but so far, none of the gods proposed by any major religion can explain or prove it.

    • It’s okay, Wendy, my daughter is an atheist (it was difficult at first to accept this but I gave her the freedom to be authentic and never made her feel bad about her thoughts on this) I am grateful that she has a conscience and cares about people and accepts everyone for who they are. I gave her a Bible as a gift for her sixteenth birthday. She kept the Bible and has read it. When we talked about Christianity her approach is questioning and scientific. She scrutinizes much more than I do. I respect that. We all have different minds and capacities and I think God respects that about you. Which is why He left room for all people by giving us a conscience. On a side note my daughter told me a story about a woman she met who was preaching scripture to people in a social setting. My daughter supported her while others were critical. The lesson here is that when we respect our differences of opinion we allow people to encounter acceptance on all levels and eventually we will arrive at the same place by safe guarding each person as they process. I know I must do better at this myself. May we all be at peace.

  17. What frustrates me is the idea that if my perspective of God doesn’t match up with with the bible’s or another Christian’s, then I am automatically believed to be doing something wrong, not doing enough of this or that, or the ‘devil’ is leading me astray. According to my Christian friends, I can’t trust my own judgement and I can’t rely on my own understanding and experience of God because again, the devil. Yet how can I trust an outside source that is equally flawed? This logic circles me into insanity. In a Christian’s eyes the need for Jesus is reinforced at this point. But from where I stand it’s appearing more like an evolving construction that purpetuates itself on the backs of people’s deepest insecurities and fears. It has never felt like love at all. And I’m fascinated by how many are convinced it is.

    So it’s not so much the people of Christianity that are turning me away, as I believe most of them are kind, sincere, and loving, much like any other slice of humanity. It’s the product being pushed: the religion itself. It’s the threat of hell from a supposedly loving God; that his love is so conditional. It’s the idea that we were all born sinners, emphasizing how rotten mankind is over our innate goodness and beauty. It’s the cultivation of shame, anxiety and guilt are over pure joy. It dismisses our own inner radiance and seems to greatly mistrust the kingdom within. And it insists we have lost our way, simply for making a more rational or intriguing detour.

    Loving God and living in the light is not about one singular and final decision any more than the transition from night to day comes down to one pivotal moment. There are degrees and variations, curves, dimensions, and astonishing beauty from multiple vantage points. It’s as unique as our DNA and as complex as the universe itself.

    I hope to soon be over worring about what Christians think I am or where they think I’m going. I am growing tired of the burden of confusion and anxiety I experience from the bible. There is so much love around us. But I’m not about to let another beautiful, well meaning human get in the way of what this beautiful, well meaning human was made for. There is room for all views.

  18. I have been told so many times I am either a heretic, wrongly inspired or heading for destruction enough times that I can’t stand the way church is practised. If I don’t believe in ‘a fiery hell where people are tormented forever’ it’s not because I am in denial. I don’t believe it because it doesn’t make sense to me. So I am not going to believe it just because people says so. However, all these splintered denominations and requirements for church memebership does make me wonder what God is doing behind the scenes

  19. After reading this and after being on my own journey of growing in spiritual majority, I have to say I have only grown in trying to emulate Jesus in my every day life!!
    It is about a personal relationship with Him and YOU, period. I have learned that “behavior modification is NOT what saves souls. 🙂 🙂
    Prayer is extremely important and praying specifically is key. 🙂 🙂 We are all a work in progress and God works every day. It is about stepping back from all the rules and interpretations and hearing the Holy Spirit with-in, and seeing God in our lives every day. We have to meet people where they are and just listen and just love them…..where they are. We cannot ask people to bring to the table what they don’t even have. Some of these stories on here are really sad to me and I am sorry for the way some have been treated. There are other denominations and Bible based churches that are not SO focused on behavior modification FIRST. Sigh………
    I hope some will give God a second chance and not necessarily rely on one church or one group of believers to determine their own relationship with Christ. He will meet you where you are. His love is so deep, we cannot even fathom it, one can find peace in that. 🙂

  20. Reblogged this on TheKingsKidChronicles and commented:
    Thank you so much for this post. It is so true that many people leave the church and or religion because they have been hurt by people claiming to be Christians. Maybe they are Christians. Maybe they are “baby” Christians who have not learned how to exhibit God’s grace. It is imperative that our life and words match our message.

  21. HI folks, WOW… I am amazed at how many comments are on this blog posting. I came across this post this afternoon and wanted to share some things. I agree with everything you posted, it really made me think about some things in my past feelings of rejection in the church. I have been in and out of 3 main churches since I moved away from home at 25 years old. I would leave because certain individual mainly church leaders in the churches that I attended were just plain rude to me and my feelings got hurt.

    I would take it personal not only with all other Christians. but with God, and I would backslide every time, and that was really not good for me mentally. I was 25 years old when it first happened with the first group of believers I associated with…I guess a part of me felt that God rejected me because they rejected me. I felt shunned, unloved and unworthy in their eyes. I thought that God felt the same way. I turned my back and my faith was shattered, and I isolated myself from the world. There were long periods of time I didn’t go to church…In the course of those years were three major church fellowships that I chose to be involved in. In the course of about 20 years I had 3 mental breakdowns. I didn’t know any better. A part of me will always believe that a part of the reason for my mental distress was because of the way I was mistreated by those believers. But then I’m a adult and realize as well is that I made the poor choice to turn away from God and the church…

    I have been doing well for the past 6 years. I come to realize that it was not God’s fault, the devil was out to destroy my soul, and he almost succeeded. These days no matter if I am in a church or not, I have not turned my back on God, My relationship with God is rock solid. For me I just have to be very careful with yes, even other believers who are not so compassionate and Christ-like. I am a blogger as well and will be posting on this subject as well. If you want to follow me, you should be able to get there from here.

  22. I agree with you. I left the church for several years because of how I was treated by other Christians. This is an area I struggle with, but I try my hardest and pray constantly that I will be a good reflection of Christ and his love. It’s much easier to be selfish and to only care about ourselves then it is to act like Jesus would have.

    • There are good churches out there. They are becoming harder to find, but they do exist. But church attendance is so important. We need each other. There are other people who have also been hurt and are still struggling in church. They need our prayers. But we won’t know to pray for them if we don’t know them. God warned the Pharisees against “blanket” prayers where we just pray a generic prayer and think we’ve done our part by spending five minutes with the Lord. He wants us to be specific (James ch. 5). I want people praying for me, and I need to be praying for others. That’s why Heb. 10:25 tells us not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together. The harder this world gets, the more we need each other. Hang in there.

      • “Assemble yourselves” is a very vague and general term of getting together. it just means come together with like believers and pray or help others or just assemble with a purpose of uplifting others. and yes we do need each other for sure. thank you for that.

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  26. Wow! So many comments, all of the worth the read. I am so sorry, Kellly, that you were treated the way you were. It could have, and should have been handled differently. It is true that God frowns on fornication, adultery, and ALL manner of sin. The pastor was probably trying to follow the Bible’s teaching on dealing with sin in the church (meaning among church members). If you need someone with you they should have offered some alternatives. However, in the end, God is the ultimate judge. How you live your life is between you and the Lord. I do strongly suggest visiting different churches, asking God to show you the one that is right for you. He knows where you will be accepted. He knows where He can best use you to benefit others and use others to benefit you. As a Christian community, we need each other. Unfortunately, there are “Christians” who seem to think they have achieved perfection and reject anyone who doesn’t fit into their mold. Don’t waste your time on them. There are believers out there (and here on wordpress that will love and accept you. It is important that we do our best to live by God’s rules and standards, but He is always willing to forgive when we go astray. God blesses the lives of those who love Him and allow Him to direct their lives. When we choose to live outside of His will, if we belong to Him, He chastens us as any good parent would do. His arms are always open to receive us into a loving spiritual hug when we humbly confess our sins and Spirit is our teacher. Just seek His fellowship. He’s the one we all answer to.

  27. I found you through Chris Martin’s blog and I shall be forever grateful. Thankfully the face of current day Christianity has only driven me from institutions, and not my faith. I, too, am on a mission to get people to re-think their reactions, to re-think what sort of an advertisement they are for what they profess to be. A song I grew to love — The Man in the Mirror.

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  30. When I originally commented I clicked the “Notify me when new comments are added” checkbox and now each time a comment is added I get three e-mails with the same comment. Is there any way you can remove people from that service? Thanks!

  31. I think it was very powerful when you said that a huge factor that plays into people losing faith in Christianity is because they look at Christians and find very little light to move towards. I agree with this statement but at the same time disagree. I have met many different Christians in my lifetime, and some of them have been better than others. While some Christians made me want to leave religion, there was that one that made me rethink things and not give up my beliefs. I think the best way to keep spreading the light of religion is just to always be loving, kind, accepting, and understanding of people whether they are religious or not.

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